A marijuana growing business in Denver has recently been sued over the use of a controversial pesticide, marking the first ever product liability case involving the legal pot business in the state of Colorado.
Thousands of Pot Plants Seized, But Only because the Pesticide is Illegal
The lawsuit filed by two marijuana users claims that the pot company LivWell treated their marijuana plants with a fungicide called Eagle 20 EW, which is banned for certain crops. Earlier this year, state authorities quarantined thousands of LivWell’s pot plants believed to have been treated with this pesticide.
The case comes to light when marijuana continues to be considered an illicit drug by the federal government of the United States. However, individual state governments can pass laws to decriminalize the use of marijuana. In November 2012, Colorado passed Amendment 24, a legislation that legalized the use of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes. The commercial sale of cannabis began on January 2014, when a number of companies legally got into the pot business.
Dilemmas over Regulating Legal Pot
Because pot growing is still a federal crime, there are no safety regulations surrounding mass production. Colorado’s state-level regulations surrounding marijuana cultivation are rudimentary—the state has so far only adapted an incomplete list of pesticides approved for use—leaving the plaintiffs in a legal quandary.
Eagle 20 EW is commonly used to treat grape and hop crops, but is banned in tobacco cultivation. The fungicide is proven to be dangerous when heated, but there is no research to indicate its effects, if any, on marijuana plants grown for consumption.
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The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit claiming the fungicide is “unhealthy,” and that action should be taken against LivWell for using an “unacceptable” substance.
LivWell has continuously insisted their pot is “perfectly safe.” The authorities released the company’s quarantined pot plants after they tested positive for acceptable levels of pesticide use.
However, the company has discontinued the use of Eagle 20 EW, LivWell’s attorney Dean Heizer told media.
“A Harbinger of Things to Come”
The lawsuit’s ultimate aim is to make cannabis use safe for consumers, the plaintiffs’ attorney Steven Woodrow claimed.
Lawyers are already calling the case “a harbinger of things to come” for the legal pot industry. Just last September, Denver authorities recalled two marijuana products for “illegal pesticide use.” The state’s attorney general is currently investigating whether some marijuana companies in the state misleadingly labelled their products as “organic.”
Pesticides in the U.S. are regulated by the Environmental Protection Authority. State governments can seek approval for marijuana related chemicals through “special local need registration”; a process that can take years.
Instead of waiting, state authorities should test the products and write the guidelines themselves, said Alison Malsbury, a Seattle based product liability attorney. In the near future, marijuana would be treated like just another consumable like food or beverages, she added.
Excluding Colorado, only three other states—Oregon, Alaska and Washington State— have legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use. Yet the nation’s biggest pot consumer is the state of California, which has legalized marijuana sale for medicinal purposes, but has no regulations regarding its production.